The Challenge of Habit: Nice Girls Don’t Get The Corner Office

First you make your habits, then your habits make you!”  – Lucas Remmerswaal

The latest book I read was “Nice Girls Don’t Get the Corner Office: 101 Unconscious Mistakes Women Make That Sabotage Their Careers” by Lois Frankel.  

What I like best about the book is the self-assessment in Chapter 1 that allows you to pinpoint your problem areas.  This gives you an option to jump to those chapters, decide which mistakes to own up to, and start working on correcting them right away.

The assessment did not reveal any surprises for me.  I scored the lowest in the areas of “How You Brand and Market Yourself” and “How You Respond”.  From the list of “mistakes” in each category, I was able to determine that, for example, I make mistakes number 48 “Waiting to Be Noticed” and number 92 “Accepting Dead-End Assignments”.  Ironically enough, the first coaching tip for “waiting to be noticed” is to ask for assignments. I scored the highest in the areas of “How You Act” and “How You Sound”.  Fake it till you make it, right?

Since this book seems to be from the self-help category, it does have some practical suggestions that could probably prove useful for many girls.  The author includes several actual real-life examples and actionable advice on what to improve and avoid making that same mistakes in the future.

Although the book does tell you to do this instead of that, behave this way instead of that way, talk like this instead of like that, it lacks the solid instructions on how to establish a new habit or break an old one.  I think we all have some habits that we would like to replace with less self-damaging ones.  Let’s say it is hard for you to say “No” to all the “help” requests that your team, co-workers, floormates, random people you meet in the elevator bombard you with. However, since it makes it hard for you to devote the necessary time and attention to your own projects, you would like to become more assertive.

  • Make the new habit attainable.  Break down large goals into smaller steps.  You are more likely to stick with the new habit, if your mind perceives it to be relatively easier.  You can stop taking on the work of only some people, for example, those who are not the boss of you.
  • Create a plan and make it a priority. Your plan could be to offer a referral to a more knowledgeable or more available person.  Do not yield! This will also give you an opportunity to expand your networking efforts in order to find those who are more knowledgeable or more available.
  • Establish a routine.  Determine exactly what steps in what order you need to take to take to perform your new habit.  Strategy is required.  For example, you could respond with a pleasant smile and follow by asking a few pre-determined questions about the request, such as Who is the sponsor of this project?  Or What’s in it for me?
  • Eliminate choices, if possible.  Make it harder for yourself to revert to your old ways.  This one should be easy – we all have something that we are currently working on… both timing and quality is at stake!  Surely you cannot allow someone else’s tasks overshadow the importance of yours, right?
  • Continue to persistently perform your new routine.  Consistency is the key.  After that initial forced phase,  the new habit should become natural to follow.  Don’t let it scare you that on average it takes 66 days to form a habit.  That person that you are determined to always say “No” to may suspect something, if you once waiver.
  • Don’t forget to tell yourself how awesome you are! Better yet – go ahead and buy yourself those beautiful shoes.

I have noticed that if you would like to break a socially unacceptable habit, it is easier to replace it with a more pleasant one.  So below are some additional resources to help you change your ways.



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